'Call Me Maybe': Behind The Song Of The Summer

Jun 9, 2012
Originally published on September 4, 2012 10:57 am

"It's happened a few times, yes," Carly Rae Jepsen says. "And they usually think that they're the first person to do it."

Jepsen has grown used to getting phone numbers from strangers. To be fair, though, they're just following her example: "Call Me Maybe," the breakout single by the 26-year-old pop singer, is all about handing over one's digits to a crush — and this spring, the song has been all but inescapable.

Here, Jepsen tells NPR's Guy Raz about creating a viral smash and touring with Justin Bieber, and explains why not owning a TV might be the smartest career decision she's ever made.

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And if you're just joining us, it's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

And it's time now for music. And this...


RAZ: quite possibly the song of the summer.


CARLY RAE JEPSEN: (Singing) I threw a wish in the well, don't ask me...

RAZ: The singer is 26-year-old Carly Rae Jepsen. The song is called "Call Me Maybe." Does everyone who meets you think it's really, like, clever to give you their number?

JEPSEN: It's happened a few times, yes. And they usually think that they're the first person to do it.

RAZ: What do they say to you?

JEPSEN: Hey, I just met you. It's so crazy.


JEPSEN: Like, here's my number. They're like, wow.


JEPSEN: (Singing) Hey, I just met you and this is crazy, but here's my number, so call me maybe...

RAZ: A year ago, Carly Rae Jepsen had a respectable music career in Canada. She's been on stage there since age 7. She got a big break a few years ago after appearing on "Canadian Idol." But today, her single "Call Me Maybe" is a monster summer pop hit, number one on iTunes and number two on the Billboard charts, and this one song has helped her get a huge record deal. But the phenomenon behind the song may be even bigger. It spawned a host of fan-made music videos by everyone from the Harvard baseball team to Justin Bieber to actor James Franco to the commander-in-chief himself.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy. But here's my number, so call me maybe.

RAZ: This version, of course, was edited from the president's speeches. Carly Rae Jepsen is barely keeping it up with it all. She's taking up on a national concert tour later this year. She was in the studio this past week with Dallas Austin. He's a producer who's worked with Michael Jackson and Madonna. And she when sat down with us, I asked her how it all started.


JEPSEN: (Singing) You took your time...

It began, I think, with Justin's support - Justin Bieber. He came home for Christmas in Canada. And it was at that exact moment that "Call Me Maybe" was getting some radio play. And he heard the song and just kind of innocently enough tweeted that he liked it and thought it was one of the catchiest songs he's heard.


JEPSEN: (Singing) Your stare was holding, ripped jeans, skin was showing...

And that just sort of sparked a fire.


JEPSEN: (Singing) Where you think you're going, baby? Hey, I just met you...

And all the sudden, people in Germany I've never met before were tweeting back to me saying how much they liked the song too. And then we were kind of off to the races.


JEPSEN: (Singing) So here's my number. So call me maybe. Hey, I just met you...

That was totally the game changer. And not just Justin, but that video kind of sparked these new, sort of, different online celebrities...

RAZ: Yeah. I mean, you have Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez did a version of it. Katy Perry...


RAZ: ...the actor James Franco.

JEPSEN: Yes. And I mean...

RAZ: Miley Cyrus.

JEPSEN: It's been crazy. I mean, Barack Obama.

RAZ: Barack Obama's done (unintelligible). The Miami Dolphins cheerleaders, the Harvard baseball team. There's a player from the New York Mets, Justin Turner, who uses this song as his at-bat song (unintelligible).

JEPSEN: Really?

RAZ: Yeah.

JEPSEN: That's amazing.

RAZ: Been covered by the band Fun, who also have had a number one hit. I mean, this is, this - it is crazy. I mean, it is crazy.

JEPSEN: Yes. It really, really is.


JEPSEN: (Singing) You took your time with the call, I took no time with the fall, you gave me nothing at all, but still you're in my way...

RAZ: So tell me about the guy that the song is about.

JEPSEN: His name is Jordi. He's just my boyfriend, and he's an architect student. So kind of different world. He kind of likes to keep his world a little bit more private than mine. But he's an amazing guy. And I feel very, very lucky to be with him.

RAZ: I mean, so lucky that you wrote this lyric: Before you came into my life, I missed you so bad.


JEPSEN: (Singing) Before you came into my life, I missed you so bad...

Yeah, it's exactly how I felt.


JEPSEN: (Singing) I missed you so, so bad...

As soon as he came into my life, I was like, you are the man that I missed.

RAZ: That's a perfect line. I sing it all the time to my kids.

JEPSEN: Do you?

RAZ: Yeah. My (unintelligible), yeah.

JEPSEN: Oh, I love that.

RAZ: Because I really missed them before they came into my life.

JEPSEN: Exactly. If it's possible to do so, I think we're on the same page.

RAZ: Yeah. I actually read that you don't have a TV and that you and your boyfriend, you play a lot of chess at home.

JEPSEN: We do, yeah. It's kind of a breakfast routine. And the TV...

RAZ: Breakfast.

JEPSEN: ...just didn't end up actually happening because my roommate, who was living with me at the time, moved out. And she took the television with her, and I just - I never really replaced it and found that I enjoyed having time to read and write songs. I think "Call Me Maybe" probably wouldn't have happened had I had a television.

RAZ: Where was the strangest - I mean, has there been a moment in recent months where you, you know, you've heard the song and you thought, this is crazy.

JEPSEN: Yes, definitely. I - this is going to be kind of strange to say on radio, but Dallas Austin, on the finishing night of our celebratory writing thing, we went to the strip club, believe or not, and some girls got down and dirty to "Call Me Maybe."

RAZ: Carly Rae, who knew?


JEPSEN: It was hilarious and awesome. And then they came and started asking for, like, autographs for their daughters. Like, this is the weirdest song I've ever done.

RAZ: Oh, I got you. Yeah, right, OK.


JEPSEN: (Singing) I threw a wish in a well. Don't ask me, I'll never tell...

RAZ: You're touring with Justin Bieber later this year.

JEPSEN: Yes. I'm so excited about that.

RAZ: No pressure there, right?

JEPSEN: I mean, definitely, I'm looking forward to putting together sort of the show of my dreams. It's the first time that I can actually, you know, think about dancers and lighting and the outfits and really get to just put these sort of dreams to reality.


JEPSEN: (Singing) But here's my number...

It's going to be a ball.


JEPSEN: (Singing) So call me maybe. Hey, I just met you...

RAZ: That's Carly Rae Jepsen. She's touring across the country this summer and later this year with Justin Bieber. Her song "Call Me Maybe" is number one on the iTunes charts and number two on the Billboard charts. Carly Rae Jepsen, good luck with the song. And thanks for joining us.

JEPSEN: Thank you so much.

RAZ: Now, we mentioned all the different videos and tributes to this song online, so we here at NPR thought we couldn't miss our opportunity to contribute. So here's a taste with some familiar NPR voices.


NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: (Singing) Before you came into my life, I missed you so bad.

RAZ: (Singing) I missed you so bad.

TOTENBERG: (Singing) I missed you so, so bad.

SCOTT SIMON, BYLINE: Tell me if I'm doing it right.


SIMON: I haven't heard this song. I should, right?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I know she's Canadian.

SUSAN STAMBERG, BYLINE: It's hard to look right, at you baby...


But here's my number, so call me maybe.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing) Hey, I just met you...

RAZ: The full version featuring Robert Siegel, Nina Totenberg, Scott Simon, Susan Stamberg and many, many others is at our website,


JEPSEN: (Singing) I miss you so bad...

RAZ: And for Saturday, that's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz. We're back on the radio tomorrow with more news stories, features and music. Until then, thanks for listening and have a great night. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.